I am a Jew and he was my Muslim Uber driver

Published: October 19, 2015
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Jewish and Muslim leaders link arms in a silent march to honor the victims of a shooting at the Ozar Hatorah school in March. PHOTO: REUTERS

I walk out of my SAT test and turn on my phone. I see that four more Israelis have been stabbed. This has become our sad new normal. I then proceed to order an Uber taxi home. Within a minute, I get a text message saying that my driver, Muhammad is on his way. Muhammad, he must be Muslim, I thought.

Maybe as an American Israeli, I should have hesitated, it wouldn’t really be unwarranted, would it? Regardless of the driver’s religion, I’m a five-foot tall, 17-year-old girl, getting into a taxi alone with a stranger. Instead though, I was optimistic — I’d just started taking Arabic, and was hoping to strike up a conversation with my driver. What actually happened during my journey home, however, far exceeded my expectations.

As I got in the taxi, Muhammad asked me where I was coming from. I told him that I had just taken the SAT.

“I’m sorry, I don’t know what that is. I’m not so educated, I’m not from this country,” he said in his strong accent and broken English.

This was my in.

“Where are you from?” I asked.

“Afghanistan.”

“Really? I actually just started learning Arabic.”

He smiled.

“Kif halak?”

Sitting in Arabic class the first day, just a few short weeks ago, my teacher explained why it’s so important for us, as Jews especially, to learn Arabic. He explained that the Muslims are a humiliated people, and by learning their language, we are showing them that we do care. Hearing this, I was sceptical, to say the least. They don’t seem humiliated at all to me, I thought. What did I know?

“I actually don’t speak much Arabic. We speak Persian. But I know a little bit from the Quran.” he said.

He was clearly very intrigued by me. It didn’t take long for it to come up that I also speak Hebrew.

“So you’re Jewish?” he asked.

“I am,” I responded without hesitation.

Before I knew it, we were discussing Shabbat, the Messiah, the Torah, and the Quran. He was so fascinated by everything I was saying, and so uninformed about Judaism. He asked me about our Shabbat and why we celebrate it. I explained to him that it’s because God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh, so we do the same. He really liked this story and thought that was a very good reason. We agreed that neither the Quran nor the Torah ever says to kill anyone, and that only radicals do such things. When he told me that Jesus was the Christian’s messiah and David was the Jews’, I corrected him.

“David wasn’t our messiah. We’re actually still waiting for the messiah,” I explained.

“Really? So are we! So what happens when the messiah comes?” He was so excited.

“Well he wakes up all the dead people and there’s supposed to be peace.”

Here we were, a Muslim and a Jew innocently discussing our own religions, and answering each other’s questions, without any prejudices. He was surprised by how many similarities there were between our religions, and so was I.  And then he opened up to me even more.

“You know, I expected America to be the greatest place in the world… That’s what we all think back home.”

“Yeah, I know. Israelis think that too… It’s not so great is it?” I said.

“No, it isn’t. I actually prefer Afghanistan. Yes, we have our security problems, but we love each other. Back in Afghanistan, a person can work and feed their family. Here I work, and I can’t even feed myself.”

“Yeah America’s just another place…”

“And here, people think we’re all terrorists. When they see my name, Muhammad, they don’t want me to drive them.”

And at that moment, my heart broke for him and his people.

“Why do you want to learn Arabic, anyway?” he went on to ask.

“Because I don’t think you’re all terrorists.” I responded.

He smiled.

I smiled.

And just like that, we’d bridged the gap in understanding that was beginning yet another war in Israel as we spoke. I will always remember Muhammad, the Uber driver who opened up to me and reminded me that we’re all just people. And I hope Muhammad, a Muslim who previously knew nothing about Jews, good or bad, will always think of us Jews fondly.

 This post originally appeared here.

Hannah Greenwald

Hannah Greenwald

Hannah is an Israeli born, New Jersey raised, high school senior. She is passionate about Israel, writing, drawing, and an avid rock climber. After high school, she hopes to return to Israel and serve in the IDF.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Justice Hunter

    Vow Hannah; that should be the approach, humans are humans but they suffer with hatred created by the politicians who get all the benefits as they plan. I hope you keep the spirit when you go back home and work for IDF. May be IDF will change by people like you and we see a different Israel, I wish.Recommend

  • Ahmed

    Hannah

    I respect u and ur sentiments…but u must also understand….these people are less accomodative of other people customs and culture….they dont like diversity or other culture…hence conversion goes in full swing…they try to convert people and teach them as if god gives good life only to those who convert and that too after death…the conversion should be banned…we already have a lots of conversion like Iran zorastrian persecuted,pakistan hindus persecuted while majority 99.99% was once hindu,afghanistan was once buddhist…even egypt had traces of hindu culture,Indonesia was full hindu and turkey was christian….but conversion butchered all beautiful things and culture…this must stop asap..they differentiate b/w human beings for eg. ahmedis are treated as if they are not human beings….what kind of nonsense is this….Recommend

  • shah

    nice story. I would caution folks about discussing politics and religion, sometimes the other person cannot handle such a discussion and it quickly degenerates into cussing and fighting.Recommend

  • Aamir – Toronto

    Thanks Hannah for shearing your wonderful experience with us.

    You are correct, there wouldn’t be any hatred among us if we start respecting each other and treat us like a normal humans !!!!Recommend

  • hamza khan

    the issue has never been muslim vs jew. it has and continues to be zionism vs palestinians. and in that fight, the rights of palestinians should always trump the racist idealogy of zionism. #realtalkRecommend

  • Zeeshan Dhanani

    Wow!!! That was a fantastic article!!! This blog proves that bridges between cultures and religions are possible not matter how great the divide. It should also give pause to our over exuberant, rating loving media, which gives the crazies / extremists the biggest platform to spew their hate while the moderates are muted. Tolerance and understanding, that should be the message.Recommend

  • Jayman

    The lady was playing with fire. Talking to a Muslim about religion is fraught with risks. All it takes is one point of disagreement and she would be toast. The driver Mohammad in her story is more an exception than the rule.Recommend

  • Golden Horde

    Lovely article. The world needs more people like you.
    And i hope you come visit us in pakistan some day. Guaranteed that you will love it :)Recommend

  • intellectual.pseudo

    HatemongerRecommend

  • Muhammad Khalid

    Hannah, it was a really very interesting and a nice article. MAY ALLAH bless you. You have highlighted the point with all sincerity about the Muslims that all Muslims are not terrorists, in your discussion with Muhammad. We as Muslims, respect all the religions and have teachings from Islam to live with harmony without hurting anyone in the society. Once again a nice article and as my friend @Golden Horde highlighted “The World needs people like you”
    JazakALLAHRecommend

  • Sane

    Hannah: Lovely write. We are all human practicing different religions. The color of our blood is same, we all have two eyes, one nose, two ears, one mouth, one heart….. We must not hate each other rather respect each other beliefs and religions. We all have mother, father, brother, sister, son, daughter, wife and other near and dear ones. We all are humans and same to each other.Recommend

  • Golden Horde

    Indian haters doing what they do best. Spread hatred.Recommend

  • Golden Horde

    Another Indian hater. Indians are so full of hatred they can’t even tolerate a friendly article. A sad bunch really. Recommend

  • Agni

    Perhaps another Hannah will write an article about a taxi ride in Delhi that did not result in sexual harassment, and than you can warn her of playing with Indian fire.Recommend

  • Jayman

    I am sorry if you considered my post as “hatred”. Maybe you might want to read my post again. I was merely saying that some topics are best left alone and not to make a habit of raising them. Reactions can be unpredictable.Recommend

  • Brutus

    This is a common trait in Pakistanis, whenever someone comes up with some logic they go berserk and start abusing. Why don’t you counter him with your own arguments, instead of calling names.Recommend

  • Nana

    Yes,there are many similarities between Islam and Judaism as they are the links of the same chain. For that matter similarities exist with Christianity also. The three share the same history of Prophets. I discovered this a long time ago. Despite many similarities the amazing thing is that bitter rivalry exist between these religions which is ironical. They could have been easily natural allies of each other but…Recommend

  • Aamir – Toronto

    I’m surprised to read your comments, by twisting the reality will not change the facts. Why don’t you educate us on the forced conversion of Muslims and Christians in India. I believe, we Pakistanis are much better than our counterpart in India.Recommend

  • Parvez

    That was worth the read.Recommend

  • Sane

    India is epicenter of terrorism and its capital is the RAPE CAPITAL of world. Recent incidents against Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and Dillats proves this.Recommend

  • Sane

    Indians are full of hate and this is showing in India now. They are killing all minorities and desecrating holy books and religious beliefs of others.Recommend

  • Desikan R

    Sane should understand that Pakistan has already been declared as the epicenter of terrorism by all countries. For example, just see how many countries are willing to visit Pakistan to play cricket.Recommend

  • Swaadhin

    Ahmediyas are already loving it.

    No one has ever understood until this day why does thousands of Pakistanis protest against Israel even when the relations between the Israelis and the Palestinians are relatively peaceful.

    Let us not forget the reason Daniel Pearl was killed and the Chabad house was attacked in Mumbai.Recommend

  • Swaadhin

    What do you think about Daniel Pearl and Omar Saeed Sheikh?Recommend

  • mk

    Nicely penned article. Hope you & Muhammad type people always have this forgetting-&-forgiving mindset. Hope both of u are protected from harsh events that could change & over turn this mindset of yours.Recommend

  • Sam Houston

    America would be a nice place, if your friend decided to assimilate. Millions and millions and millions of people, from all over the World, have migrate to the USA, became permanent legal residents, assimilated and worked hard to become American Citizens. The love there new country and are very Patriotic. Did you know that many who volunteer in the US Military and go to war are these same people? Willing to Sacrifice your life for a country that you think is “meh, not all that” is not something that you do. We all miss where we can from. I migrated to Louisiana and miss my Texas dearly.Recommend